By Sen. Judy Lee
Deadlines drive our schedules in the legislature, and the date by which all bills containing money had to be sent from policy committees to the appropriations committee was February 11. The Human Services committee has had many bills with funding in them, so the members have been extremely busy evaluating the proposals and trying to make good decisions about which ones move forward and how much money they will cost.
One big bill, SB 2193, deals with services for children and families dealing with autism spectrum disorders. The House also has an autism bill, so we will be working together to come up with the best combination. We also supported requiring newborn screening for chronic heart defects and approved a loan repayment plan for dentists to encourage their choosing to work in not-for-profit clinics.
The Political Subdivisions committee supported a bill which would allow NDSU Teammakers, among others, to increase their cash awards above the $4000 current limit for their 50/50 raffles. Bison fans, the prizes could have more cash and less merchandise, if this passes! Another bill would tighten the requirements for those working with septic systems to deal with the current abuses, particularly in the oil patch.
The Finance and Tax committee has been looking at the broad issue of taxes, recognizing that the 3 legs of the revenue stool, property, income, and sales taxes, must be in balance while the tax burden of citizens is being reduced. Eliminating sales taxes on clothing, for example, would remove about $50 million from state coffers, but it amounts to about $5/month per person, probably not a budget buster for most. Reducing taxes in other areas may be preferable.
Transportation news is a large appropriation which was fast tracked through the legislature, so that planning could begin right away for the spring construction season, rather than having to wait until funding bills are effective on July 1. Driving while under the influence (DUI) bills have also been studied. Most agree that the laws need to be changed, but the challenge is in finding the right ways to do it.
The Senate passed SB 2211 which is a comprehensive bill addressing animal care, neglect, and abuse. It covers all animals, not just dogs, cats, and horses, unlike the initiated measure which was defeated in November. The bill is the result of 18 different groups working together for nearly 2 years to update the laws, assuring proper treatment for animals while recognizing the role of production agriculture in the state.
You can watch the Senate and House sessions every afternoon at 1 p.m., 12:30 on Fridays, at www.legis.nd.gov or check it out later; it’s archived. It is also easy to track bills using the web links on the site.
Your legislators appreciate your input and opinions! Check our Facebook page or send a message. Senator Judy Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rep. Kim Koppelman, email@example.com; Rep. Alon Wieland, firstname.lastname@example.org.